A Baule Mask


Mask, “goli kple kple”

Baule, Côte d’Ivoire

Wood. Size: D: 15 cm. W: 52 cm. H: 95 cm.


– Lynn University, Boca Raton.

– A.B. Levy’s Palm Beach (2018)

– Swiss private collection

This buffalo mask called “kplekple bla” was part of the goli dance. This found e.g. after the harvest, at receptions, at funeral ceremonies and in times of danger. In order to ward off coming calamities, a connection to the supernatural powers that have a direct influence on people’s lives was established

A goli ensemble comprised three to four pairs of masks that were viewed as a family: the zoomorphic goli-glin buffalo masks (father), the anthropomorphic kpan and kpan-pre masks (mother) and the disc-shaped kple-kple masks (daughter and son) .

In particular, the buffalo in the goli dance should also keep wild animals – such as antelopes and bush cows, which ate the grass off the roofs of the huts – away from the village.

This mask impressively illustrates the aesthetic conceptions that helped the avant-garde artists at the beginning of the 20th century to find new ways in the language of forms – in particular the simultaneous representation of Cubism.


Vogel, Susan M. (1997). Baule. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • The Baoulé people are talented in African art. Their sculptures are renowned for their refinement, form diversity and the labor they represent. The sculptures do not only include face masks and human figurines, but also include a great variety of work in gold, bronze, and ivory.

Many Baoulé art objects are restricted to be seen only by the individual for whom it was made or by a specific group of people. They are often considered to be powerful spiritual objects. The most powerful spiritual objects are the men’s sacred masks, bo nun amuin. This mask is a boxy helmet mask representing a menacing animal with bared teeth. Viewing the mask is restricted to men. If a woman or child sees the mask they risk serious injury or death. It is danced in times of trouble to protect the village and at important men’s funerals. When the bo nun amuin mask is danced it can become very wild and violent. The spirit may chase the men through the village or wreak havoc by destroying things in its path.

Another important art object in Baoulé culture is the blolo bla and blolo bian spirit spouse figures. These sculptures are private objects made for an individual to represent their spirit spouse. Each person has a spirit spouse from the other world, which they were married to before they were born into this world. People make offerings of food and money to their spirit spouse figures to keep them happy because they can influence their relationship with their earthly spouse or other earthly relationships and personal endeavors.

A Baule Mask

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